Difficult, Difficult, Lemon Difficult: British Film Today

15 10 2009


Alan Parker famously once said that he would leave the UK if Peter Greenaway were allowed to make another film. This was back in the Eighties, when threatening to leave the country was something of a pastime for the rich and famous, but it did reflect a frustration that Parker and others had about the direction in which the British film industry was going.

We make too many artsy films, they argued, the kind of films that confuse the man in the street and do little to promote the growth of the domestic industry. Instead we should be focusing on lively and entertaining cinema, films that pull in the crowds and tell a good story well.

Since then the British film industry has too often operated with these extremes in mind, unable to commit to one or the other. For much of the Nineties and Noughties we saw, on the one hand, self-consciously populist films that proved to be far from popular at the box office and, on the other, serious films that didn’t quite have the balls to take any serious risks artistically. Despite occasional successes (The Talented Mr. Ripley, My Summer of Love, Trainspotting, Ratcatcher) the overall mood was one of gloom, compromise and squalor.

Imagine my surprise then, when coming back to the UK in August after almost a year away, to find the country in the midst of a mini cinematic boom and myself with a whole lot of catching up to do. Ingmar Bergman in his later years reportedly watched every metre of new Swedish film that was released, and I found myself trying to do the same with DVDs, tracking down as many of the key works of this new British renaissance as I could find.

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